‘Great re­la­tion­ship’ with Duterte, says Trump

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

MANILA: Don­ald Trump de­clared on Mon­day he had a “great re­la­tion­ship” with Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, a self-pro­claimed killer who is wag­ing a drugs war that rights groups say in­volves mass mur­der, as the lead­ers joked with each other in Manila.

Lead­ers of Asian na­tions meet­ing in Manila skirted around the mass ex­o­dus of Ro­hingya Mus­lims trig­gered by Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary crack­down, dis­ap­point­ing hu­man rights groups who were hop­ing for a tough stand on the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

A draft of the state­ment to be is­sued after a meet­ing of South­east Asian lead­ers made no men­tion of the plight of Ro­hingya from mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Myan­mar’s Rakhine state that the United Na­tions has de­scribed as eth­nic cleans­ing. One para­graph men­tioned fleet­ingly the im­por­tance of hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief for “af­fected com­mu­ni­ties” in Rakhine state.

The state­ment was drawn up by the Philip­pines, current chair of the 10-mem­ber As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (Asean), which in­cludes Myan­mar.

Al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in last year’s US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions have dogged the sec­ond half of Trump’s 12-day trip, which has taken him from Ja­pan to South Korea, China and Viet­nam.

Rights groups had called on Trump to end his Asian jour­ney with a strong state­ment against Duterte’s drugs war, which has seen po­lice and sus­pected vig­i­lantes kill thou­sands of peo­ple.

But in a se­ries of en­coun­ters over Sun­day and Mon­day, Trump and Duterte ap­peared to en­joy each oth­ers’ com­pany, lead­ing to warm praise from the US pres­i­dent dur­ing of­fi­cial talks at lunchtime.

“We’ve had a great re­la­tion­ship. This has been very suc­cess­ful,” Trump told Duterte in brief open­ing re­marks at their meet­ing. Trump praised Duterte for his or­gan­i­sa­tion of the sum­mits, say­ing he han­dled them “beau­ti­fully”. “I’ve re­ally en­joyed be­ing here,” he said. As the re­porters were be­ing es­corted out of the room, one asked if Trump would raise the is­sue of hu­man rights, to which Duterte jok­ingly called the me­dia “spies”. Both laughed but nei­ther an­swered.

Duterte’s spokesman later said re­peat­edly that Trump did not bring up any hu­man rights con­cerns in the meet­ing, which lasted about 40 min­utes.

He said the US leader nod­ded as he lis­tened to Duterte speak­ing about his drugs war.


Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing the 31st Asean Sum­mit in Manila on Mon­day.

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